Q:

What causes cyclones?

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According to Geoscience Australia, the main source for the generation of a tropical cyclone is the abundance of warm water and favorable wind patterns that can persist for several days as the cyclone develops. Encyclopedia Britannica explains that warm, moisture-saturated air continues to rise through the center of the circulation as long as the air surrounding the core is cooler and heavier. The continuous vertical movement allows clouds to develop.

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The warm, rising air in the core also draws in humid air from the surrounding atmosphere at an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet, further intensifying the circulation of the clouds already in the system. Cyclones can continue to intensify in this manner until their energy sources are depleted by moving over land or cooler waters.

However, one of the most important factors in the development of a proper cyclone is the initial low-pressure center must be at least 300 miles away from the equator. If this is not the case, then the Coriolis force, an inertial force generated by the spinning of the planet, is not strong enough to trigger the spiraling motion of the cloud system, and a cyclone can never form under such conditions.

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